by Mike Ratliff
12 Ἀγαπητοί, μὴ ξενίζεσθε τῇ ἐν ὑμῖν πυρώσει πρὸς πειρασμὸν ὑμῖν γινομένῃ ὡς ξένου ὑμῖν συμβαίνοντος, 13 ἀλλὰ καθὸ κοινωνεῖτε τοῖς τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθήμασιν χαίρετε, ἵνα καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ χαρῆτε ἀγαλλιώμενοι. 14 εἰ ὀνειδίζεσθε ἐν ὀνόματι Χριστοῦ, μακάριοι, ὅτι τὸ τῆς δόξης καὶ τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πνεῦμα ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἀναπαύεται. 15 μὴ γάρ τις ὑμῶν πασχέτω ὡς φονεὺς ἢ κλέπτης ἢ κακοποιὸς ἢ ὡς ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος· 16 εἰ δὲ ὡς Χριστιανός, μὴ αἰσχυνέσθω, δοξαζέτω δὲ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ μέρει τούτῳ. 17 ὅτι [ὁ] καιρὸς τοῦ ἄρξασθαι τὸ κρίμα ἀπὸ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ θεοῦ· εἰ δὲ πρῶτον ἀφʼ ἡμῶν, τί τὸ τέλος τῶν ἀπειθούντων τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίῳ; 18 καὶ εἰ ὁ δίκαιος μόλις σῴζεται, ὁ ἀσεβὴς καὶ ἁμαρτωλὸς ποῦ φανεῖται; 19 ὥστε καὶ οἱ πάσχοντες κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ πιστῷ κτίστῃ παρατιθέσθωσαν τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν ἐν ἀγαθοποιΐᾳ. 1 Peter 4:12-19 (NA28)
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes among you as a test, as if a strange thing is happening to you, 13 but in so far as you share in the suffering of Christ, rejoice, that in the glory of his revelation you may also rejoice and be glad. 14 If you are reproached in the name of Christ, you are blessed ones because the Spirit of Glory and The Spirit of God rests upon you. 15 Do not let any of you suffer as a murderer or thief or an evildoer or as a meddler, 16 but if any suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time to begin the judgment at the house of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those disobeying the good news of God? 18 And if the righteous man with difficulty is saved, where will the ungodly and sinner appear? 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God let them commit their souls to a trustworthy creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:12-19 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Peter wrote this as very real Christian persecution was taking place against the Church. This persecution was sponsored by the Roman government for the most part because Christians would not worship Caesar as their god. From this passage, we learn that when Christian persecution becomes a reality there are some imperatives that become necessary in order for us to become triumphant in and through it. In v12 he tell us to not be surprised when it happens. In other words, we must expect it. I think that is what is causing so much stress in the Church in our time with the rampant apostasy at every level. These judgments, allowed by God, to come upon His Church are meant to purge, purify, and cleanse His Church. Therefore, many former leaders who looked solid before, go apostate. Those who are not genuine believers follow them, but genuine believers, the Sheep, are confused, hurt, struggle, and are even attacked by these wolves in sheep’s clothing as being divisive, et cetera because they will not support the unbiblical things going on in their old church. Been there, done that.
I am just like most of you. I respond to these things with outrage, anger, and seek to set things right. However, in vv13, 14 we see that we should rejoice in it. Why? We are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. I do not think that this means we do not speak out and tell the truth. No, we must do that, but when the wolves respond with their attacks, et cetera, we cannot respond with rage, and all that goes with it. I know some of you reading this who have lost your churches to a PDC takeover and you are quite bitter about it. I was myself when it happened to me. However, even when those who took over that church treated me shamefully, my response still should have been wrapped in Christlikeness.
In vv15-18 we see must look at what has brought about our trial or suffering. Is it our fault or are we suffering because we are uncompromising Christians? If it is the former then we are suffering for deeds of the flesh and that is something else. However, if it is the latter then Peter tells us that we are in the trial as part of a 1 Peter 4:17 judgment on the Church. Our response should always be one of patience and godliness by praying for those who are in error and are simply instruments in the hands of our enemy as we submit to the flail of the Lord. Let us pray for wisdom and discernment through these things. Then in v19 we entrust ourselves to God.
The leadership of the apostate visible church are being revealed almost daily to us. It causes us grief, confusion, stress, anger, and rage. However, as we have seen, this is not how we should respond. Expose them? Yes! Get the Church to turn from them? Yes! Do not be surprised when masses of those who do not obey the good news of God still follow them? Sadly, yes. My brethren, we must not despair because of these things. We must be as wise as serpents, but as innocent and doves. Never forget that even as God swings His flail to purge His Church and purify it, He loves it, and, if you are in Christ, that means you too.
Soli Deo Gloria!